Praying Mantis Facts - Animals of the World

The name praying mantis (matis religiosa) came from the praying-like posture with the folded forelimbs.
The name praying mantis (matis religiosa) came from the praying-like posture with the folded forelimbs.

Praying mantis is a group of insects closely related to cockroaches and termites. These insects are believed to be 135 million years old, the earliest known fossils being found around that time in Siberia. The name mantid was properly used to refer to the Mantidae which was historically the only member of the mantidae family. There are approximately 15 major families comprising of more than 2,400 species. The name praying mantis (matis religiosa) came from the praying-like posture with the folded forelimbs. Khoi tribe from western Africa believed that the insect had supernatural powers and went on to name it the god of the mantis, while in Greece it was believed that the insect showed lost travelers the way. In the UK the name mantises was the common name.


Praying mantises have triangular heads with beak-like snout and mandibles. The eyes are bulbous, and are located on top of the head together with a pair of antennae. The neck is remarkably flexible with some species able to rotate their head up to 180 degrees. Mantis have compound eyes with stereo vision having 10,000 ommatidia. Praying mantis are able to locate their prey by sight, and their head is able to rotate bringing the image of the potential prey into the visual field of the fovea. The fovea is located at the front and has a greater visual acuity than the rest of the eye, producing a higher resolution for examining prey. The two-spiked forelimbs (raptorial legs) are for grasping and holding prey. These folded legs also gave the name of praying mantis. The thorax of the praying mantis consists of 3 sections: the prothorax, mesothorax, and metathorax. Mantis can be categorized according to their wings or lack of it. There are four categories: macropterous (long-winged), brachypterous (short-winged), vestigial (winged), and apterous (non-winged). Praying mantises are found in all parts of the world including the tropics and the temperate regions.


Mantises are in general ambush predators, although some pursue prey and eat almost anything including smaller individuals of their species. They camouflage using the color of their wings to blend into the surrounding and remain stationary in wait for the prey. Stalking is another tactic they use to capture their prey. The ground species run down their prey until they weaken of exhaustion.


Mantises live for about a year. Reproduction occurs through the females laying fertilized eggs on leaves on tree branches, stems, or the ground. In tropical climatic areas laying happens any time of the year, unlike in temperate parts of the world where eggs are laid in autumn after which the female die. The laid eggs are protected by a hard shell. Copulation at times occurs at the risk of the males as the females are bound to eat them during or after by cutting off their heads. A common speculation was that this happens to ensure that the eggs are properly fertilized or quicken the process of copulation. However, this has been dismissed as untrue.


More in Did You Know